What The Beatles Can Teach You About Firm Retreats

Fifty years ago, the Beatles decamped to Rishikesh, India, for a much-needed retreat. They had been touring continuously since “Love Me Do” hit the charts five years earlier.

By 1968, the group’s interest in Indian spirituality and music had been growing. “Norwegian Wood” famously featured George Harrison on sitar.

The band and their entourage slept in simple stone egg-shaped bungalows 200 feet above the Ganges River at the Chaurasi Kutia ashram. They meditated five hours a day, lived on vegetarian food and, against ashram rules, purportedly took LSD and smoked marijuana. Ringo Starr was so concerned about the food that he arrived with a suitcase full of baked beans.

The Beatles shared the compound with around 70 students, including Mia Farrow and her sister (the subject of the song “Dear Prudence”), Donovan and Mike Love of the Beach Boys. The Beatles planned to stay for two months, but Ringo left after two weeks. John Lennon and his then-wife Cynthia were fighting and left soon thereafter.

Paul McCartney stayed for six weeks, but he and George grew apart in India, and their relationship was never the same.

The trip to India did not break up the band, but it was a watershed moment. It was a retreat gone wrong. Listening to The White Album, released a few months later, one can hear how the retreat backfired. The songs are individualistic rather than group efforts.

As you plan your law firm retreats, make sure that your retreat brings you all together and that you leave energized. A successful practice, industry, business unit or full-firm retreat takes intensive planning by your marketing and business development teams, active participation and support of leadership, great content and, most importantly, thorough follow-up.

The best retreats I have participated in are the ones where everyone continuously asks themselves two questions:

  1. Whom should I know better?
  2. How can I be better?

Put in the work ahead of the retreat and give people a chance to learn and get to know one another. Unlike the Fab Four, you will return home singing from the same song sheet.

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